The company's Toughbook CF-28 and Toughbook CF-M34 are both designed to conform to a variety of industry test standards and can withstand common accidents such as drops and water spillage, as well as more extreme abuse such as sustained vibration that car-mounted devices experience.
According to Chester Chen, product specialist for the Toughbook line, notebooks are increasingly used in "mission-critical" situations. The growing reliance on these mobile computers means any downtime, perhaps due to accidental damage, is very costly.
Citing a 1999 IDC report, Chen said the estimated cost of repairing a notebook is about US$1,400 on average. Furthermore, if such devices were used by civil defense organizations such as the fire department and the military, downtime simply cannot be tolerated. Hence, while a Toughbook can cost about three times the price of a regular notebook, it more than makes up with its durability, he added.
With their magnesium alloy casings and gel-packed hard drives, the Toughbook notebooks meet the requirements of US MIL-STD 810e test procedures and can withstand harsh abuse and long-term exposure to dust and moisture. At the press launch, Panasonic showed a video demonstration of a unit being run over by a vehicle and still functioning properly after.
Acknowledging the niche market that the Toughbook commands, Chen said the notebook is targeted mainly at industrial automation applications and civil defense organizations.
Chen said the Toughbook has been used in the US and Europe by telcos, and in Australia and New Zealand by salespeople, with another possible application being GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking in police cars or military vehicles. He added that the Public Utilities Board in Singapore is currently using six units of an earlier Toughbook model in a trial.
Asked why Panasonic is introducing the Toughbook--launched in the US about five years ago--to the Singapore market only now, Chen said that increasingly more companies here are now exploring in-vehicle use of notebooks.
The 4.1kg CF-28 features a 600-MHz Mobile Pentium III processor, 128MB SDRAM, a 13.3-inch TFT screen and a 20GB hard drive. The 1.7kg CF-M34 sports a 400-MHz Mobile Pentium III processor, 64MB SDRAM, an 8.4-inch TFT screen and a 10GB hard drive.
Priced at S$11,000 and S$7,000 respectively, the CF-28 and CF-M34 will be sold directly and not through retail outlets.